I often observe that bills in Salem are not voted down. They don’t die of “trauma”, but rather from “old age”.
After a hectic two months, we find ourselves approaching legislative deadlines. Most committees are required to schedule action on assigned bills by the end of the month or those bills “die in committee”. There are over 2500 proposals in circulation at this point. About 700 will survive to April.
Here are a few highlights of the past two weeks.
On the Road with Ways and Means
I spent a weekend in Pendleton and Redmond as the Ways and Means “roadshow” continued. I currently serve as Co-Vice-Chair of this budget-writing Committee. Last week we were in Coos Bay and this week the hearings finished up in Portland.
The goal is to bring the budget process to where Oregonians live and work to hear their thoughts on spending. In a typical event, we hear from about 70 people.
At each location, people came forward to express their concerns and priorities for state funding. We heard about pre-school programs and colleges, health and mental health, local economic development projects, agriculture and extension services, and schools.
To listen in on these presentations, visit:
http://oregon.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=26104 (Coos Bay)
Kids in the Capitol: One of the bright spots of any week in the Capitol is having student groups from the district visit. Last week, over 100 children from Sam Case in Newport and Nestucca Elementary in Tillamook County came to see the Golden Man and see their legislature working. In just a few minutes, I will visit with the students of Taft Elementary. I remind them the statue on the dome is gazing west – toward the coast where we live.
I like to meet with kids outside the House chamber where there are paintings of Oregon’s recent governors. I show them the iconic image of Tom McCall and ask why he is standing on the beach in a suit and tie, one foot on the water, with his hand extended. Someone will invariably shout out, “Because the beach belongs to all of us!”
“That’s right”, I tell them. “He wants to shake hands to make that agreement”. And I ask, “Do you see any trash in the painting? Any paper cups, plastic bags, or cigarette butts? No. Because the beaches do belong to all of us and we need to help keep them clean!”
No Drilling on the Oregon Coast! On Tuesday, I carried SB 256 to the House Floor for a final vote. This measure will prevent oil and gas drilling or exploration within three miles of the Oregon Coast in our “Territorial Waters”. It would also prevent infrastructure to support drilling in Federal Waters further off shore.
Oregon’s coastal economy is worth $2.5 billion and supports 33,000 jobs. The potential and irreversible effects of oil pollution on marine ecosystems and maritime economies do not warrant the questionable, short term benefits that might be gained from offshore oil and gas exploration.
I live at the coast. Our natural resource industries, fishing and shellfish, our tourism industry, and our retirement industries rely on the beauty and the clarity of our coastline. People come to see our magnificent vistas and the sun and moonlight glinting off the waves. They don’t come to see the glaring lights of oil rigs reflected in those waves.
The measure passed 47 to 8 and now goes to the Governor to be signed into law.
Puppy Mill Pets: This week I presented a proposal to keep “puppy mill” and “kitten factory” animals out of pet stores. We have banned puppy mills in Oregon. But a few stores have found a way to import them from other states.
My proposal is that stores focus on adoptions from local shelters. Whether public facilities funded with tax dollars, or non-profits that operate with tax-deductible donations, our shelters are spending millions each year to house, feed, and provide health care. Encouraging adoptions is certainly good for those animals, but also good for public budgets. Anyone looking for a pure-bred pet can still buy one from an established breeder where they will find a healthier animal than the mass-breeders usually produce.
I’m hoping the House Committee on Business and Labor will move this measure forward in the next few weeks.
Coastal Art and Artists
We are continuing to invite artists from our district to showcase their work in my Capitol office.
The featured artist for March is Ben Soeby from Lincoln City. Ben is inspired by his experience with wildlife in our coastal streams and waters. That may well explain why my walls are now festooned with bright, colorful Fish Boxes. We were pleased to have Ben visit the Capitol and I promise his work is stopping traffic in our hallway.
Thanks to Ben Soeby for displaying your art!
More on the Budget
In addition to my work as Co-Vice-Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, I also Co-Chair the Subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development. That gives me primary responsibility for the Oregon Department of Transportation, Business Oregon, the Employment Division, Veteran’s Department, and the Housing Department.
The budgeting process begins with a detailing of what existing programs cost. We call that the “current service level”. We compare that number to an estimate of how much money we will have. That is called the “revenue forecast”. We began the 2019 session with a report that revenue would be short of program costs by over $600 million.
How can that be, with the economy doing well and more people working, more people earning more, and more people paying more taxes? The over-simplified answer is that costs of healthcare and commitments to public employee retirements (PERS) are increasing faster than our income.
The result is that sub-committees have been directed to reduce current budgets. Oregon law requires that we spend no more than we receive in taxes. All programs except for K12 education are being cut. That’s a difficult and challenging process, especially in the budgets that deal with vulnerable populations needing healthcare, shelter, or mental health supports.
As the session evolves, you can expect to hear conversations about changing the tax structure in Oregon and the Public Employees Retirement System to better fund public education and critical services.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read my updates. Please send me an email or give me a call if you’d like to visit me in Salem or if I can ever be of service.
Representative David Gomberg
House District 10
address: 900 Court St NE, H-471, Salem, OR, 97301